Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
Reaching the soaring finale of his 22 minutes on a stage in a white hotel wedding tent -- miles from the Democratic convention hall -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo boomed, almost preacher-style: "DO YOU BELIEVE THAT, AMERICA?"
He demanded of those listening Thursday if they believed in taking care of seniors' health care, in shared success in education, in affordable college loans, and moreover, if they believed that a cord of community binds us, and "when one of us is raised, we are all raised, and when one of us is lowered, we are all lowered." If so, of course, you had to re-elect President Barack Obama, and his audience shouted and cheered on cue.
But there was much more to this hybrid national-state address -- delivered amid a ton of speculative blah-blah-blah about a 2016 presidential run of his own. Made before a couple of hundred New York delegates and guests, the speech did seem well-suited to a downtime television slot between the night appearances of former President Bill Clinton and Obama.
To reach its pinnacle, Cuomo's speech took an interesting tour through standard greetings, cheerleading, sarcasm, righteous indignation, self-promotion, satire and New York promotion. As oratory, you had to wonder if its intensity would have better fit a cavernous convention hall. But what would the governor have gained from his talking to a thin gathering of rump state delegations in the off hours of the first or second day of a three-day convention?
Inevitably, a convention-hall speech would have been compared to his father's DNC speech in his second year as New York governor. That was during the ill-fated presidential bid of Walter Mondale, and fueled the kind of Cuomo-for-the-White House speculation for which this governor has already said he has no use.
There were clear parallels in the text of the speeches, in the broad sense that both Cuomos -- like Clinton on Wednesday night -- argued the existence of a big philosophical difference between the parties. But in his appearance Thursday, Andrew M. Cuomo seemed more to be channeling the late Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan by invoking for New Yorkers -- just as she did in her 1992 keynote address for Clinton -- "E Pluribus Unum" (Out of Many, One).
Cuomo and his delegation seemed to have the most fun as he mocked last week's GOP theatrics in Tampa, Fla. "Watching them made my day," he said. Cuomo launched into the eerie voice of a stage magician as he tweaked those who would cut taxes on the rich to "release the great American entrepreneurial spirit. . . . The American spirit has a special wand, and he will wave the wand. And everything will be OK."
Cuomo hailed Clinton's speech and Obama's efforts, and projected indignation when he spoke of the precarious condition of American financial institutions when Obama took office. "Frankly," he said, "it is absurd that the party that created the problem now wants to present themselves as the solver of the problems of the American people."
Over the stage hung a talismanic banner proclaiming "New York State: Progressive Capital of the Nation" -- a signal that the governor would, of course, emphasize in-state accomplishments. He suggested New York has paved a progressive path for the United States in Medicaid and education reform, attention to infrastructure and marriage equality.
It was a distinctly Cuomo-esque speech in other ways, too. "I hear there was a rumor that a few of you were up late last night touring Charlotte," he told the guests. "By the looks of some of you, it was true. Charlotte will never be the same."